There is just absolutely no business sense here, and no respect for laws. The combination of these 2 factors makes completing the simplest tasks a huge freaking ordeal. I mean we have a few big chain companies (which we Berkeley hippies foolishly denounced), and they keep regular business hours and don't do completely asinine things, but the same can't be said for the local businesses, which close when they feel like it, open when they feel like it, don't have basic things like websites or even listed telephone numbers. You call a guy to fix something (an electrician or a mechanic or whatever), and he just doesn't show up. I just don't understand it. They have people willing to give them money in exchange for services, and they're too lazy to wake up and open the door for business. Sometimes I have only an hour to go do a quick thing, like make copies or return something I bought, so I run to a given store between classes, only to find it closed in the middle of the afternoon.
Also, so many people just DON'T WORK. Just one of many examples: Alexandre and I went to the supermarket the other night just before their 8pm closing time. There's a 10 items or less / seniors preference line. Fine, great, I respect that. But the supermarket was totally empty. There were only 2 cashiers working: one regular line, and this special line. We had a bit more than 10 items, but there was NO ONE else around except for the 2 people in the regular line. So we went up to the special line to see the young cashier picking at her nails.
"Can we come in this line?" Alexandre asked.
"10 items and seniors only." the girl said.
"Well sure, but there's no one else here. So can you help us?"
"I don't know, no."
Alexandre just sighed, but I couldn't help myself. "Oh my god, moça. I'm so sorry we asked you to work. Don't worry, you go ahead and keep on sitting there. I know it's so tiring."
(See what I mean about losing my patience?)
I just opened a bank account here (finally, yay!). If you've ever opened an account in an American bank, you'll know that it's a pretty simple thing. The same cannot be said for Brazilian banks. So far it's been about 3 weeks and I still don't have a card or full access to the account. One of the banks (Banco do Brasil) is government-run. It decided to open from 11:00am-4:00pm. Imagine if this happened in the US. What would the other banks do? Open more, of course, and steal all the business from the public bank. That's what capitalism should be-- trying to be better than your competition. But what happened here? The bank employees at the private banks protested to lower the bar. So now ALL banks open from 11:00am-4:00pm. Yup. 5 hours in the middle of the day, with lunch breaks. IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY GODDAMNED SENSE. To be fair to the employees, they have to be there earlier and stay a bit later, but they are doing internal things and don't have to see any clients. If anyone can enlighten me on why the bank's schedules are so retarded, please do. Alexandre says "because bank tellers are effing lazy", and I'd like to think there's more to it than that, but I can't be sure.
The bank's website has online banking. I tried to sign up for it, but it didn't work. Then I went into the bank this morning and tried to make a deposit, but it didn't work. So then I had to go back during business hours to talk to someone, but the lady who has been "helping" me open my account was on her lunch break (it was 11:45am. Poor thing. 45 minutes of work is so tiring). So I had to wait for another guy, and explain my situation. He informed me that the central branch had released my account number (which I got from the lady when I called her on Monday to ask her what the hold up was), but that no one had gone into the system to officially "turn on" the account. (So basically when I called the lady, she saw that I had a number, but she didn't take the 30 seconds to activate it.) So he did that, which also was necessary to order my bank card (so that means if I hadn't gone in to ask, or if I hadn't tried to make a deposit without the card, who knows when it would've been ordered?). So at least this guy was pretty on the ball. But when I explained to him about the online banking thing, he said that savings accounts can't use the online banking. So then I asked if I could have one of those little checkbook balance logs (that was kind of hard to explain in Portuguese). He said they didn't have them. So I asked him how I was supposed to check and maintain my balance, because the ATM charges if I print out a statement more than twice a month. His answer? "You can make a spreadsheet in Excel or something." Fabulous. Amazing customer service.
My other issue is just the day-to-day every-man-for-himself lawlessness exhibited by the people around here. You see it most in transit, with the rampant red-light-running, drunk-driving, going-the-wrong-way-on-a-one-way-street madness. My students love to complain about their government and how the Brazilian government has so much corruption. Here's my take on it: the government may be corrupt, but the government is not an abstract idea. It's made up of people, and these people represent people. So many Brazilians have no qualms of committing their own acts of corruption on a daily basis. It's the cashier guy on the bus who pockets the fares. It's the doctor who doesn't pay his taxes. It's the copy place that makes illegal copies of books to make a quick buck at the expense of laws and the publishers. It's the people who go into Paraguay and bring back suitcases full of crap to sell in their hometowns, again to make a quick buck at the expense of Brazilian factory workers and businesses. It's the cop who accepts bribes from drunk drivers. It's the bouncer who lets 14-year-olds into the bar and the bar owner who ignores it. It's the guy who knows a guy who can clean your "points" off your driving record illegally. It's my neighbor who leaves her trash in the building's closed hallway because she's too lazy to go down the stairs to take it out, but she doesn't want to smell it inside HER apartment (so everyone else has to smell it instead) (yes, I knocked and her door and said something).
These are all things that I've seen personally, and I could go on.
This is not a far-away idea of a "corrupt government." These are individual people making individual decisions. And then some particularly ignorant people have the nerve to complain to ME and blame ME for America's tough immigration laws. I'm gonna be the one to say what people are thinking: If Brazilians want to live in a better place, BE BETTER. Act better. Make your own country better instead of just trying to run away from it.
Yes, I know I'm gonna get all kinds of Brazilians leaving comments on here that "well, America has problems too! Bad things happen in America, too!" That's right, they do. And when I lived there, I complained about it. And if you live there for a while and feel like you're always trying to do the right thing only to be counteracted by everyone else doing the wrong thing, you can complain about it. And I live here, and I'm allowed to complain about it. The problems of the two countries are not mutually exclusive.
I'm tired of having to keep my mouth shut all the time because "I'm not from here" so my criticisms are somehow more offensive than the criticisms from a native-born Brazilian. I am not an American ambassador. I try to be optimistic and to focus on the good things about this country, but at the end of the day, I'm just one regular person who gets frustrated when things don't work correctly.
I'm really really really hoping that Brazilian big-city daily life isn't as infuriating. Because if we end up moving at the end of the year and this shit is the SAME, I'll probably just give up all faith in Brazil, and possibly in people in general.